Fat Wreck Chords / New Damage Records
Arguably Canada’s finest musical export, The Flatliners are back with a record described by frontman Chris Cresswell as “a stripped back, on the road album. An album to show what they are as a band, a group of hardworking guys, a touring band.”
Initially, I was skeptical, I was anticipating overproduction because after all, this is a studio full-length, right? I was wrong.
It wasn’t until The Great Awake that I really sat up and started paying attention to The Flatliners; to me they were just another ska/punk rock revival band that would die out soon enough and take their random upstrokes here and there with them. Then with The Great Awake it was phased out, and one of my new favourite bands unfolded in front of me. I bought their albums, I went to their show with about 15 or so other people, I cracked a rib (no regrets), and most importantly I believed everything I was singing along to, everything I was screaming my lungs out about. Skip forward a couple of years, past Cavalcade and the extensive touring, and we’re here at the release of Dead Language, the band’s fourth full-length album which, if nothing else, will exceed expectations of fans around the globe.
Resuscitation of the Year kicks off Dead Language, and the title alone is profound in so many ways. A subtle dig at the somewhat sparse Punk Rock movement of mid-2013? Possibly. However, it’s probably more of a nod to the fans that have waited 3 long years between Cavalcade and Dead Language,letting us all know that it’s been worth the wait and that The Flatliners aren’t running out of steam anytime soon. The moody, blues-esque intro is deceptive, but once the track hits the minute mark it’s a completely different story as Cresswell and co. kick in (quite literally) with their fast-paced, throat tearing vocals and riffs that pack a punch so hard, it borders on assault.
Bury Me follows, and whilst the track’s name is oxymoronic to the album’s first, it means nothing other than a welcomed burst of energy that quickly takes Dead Language up another gear, before dropping dramatically with Birds of England, a heartfelt, stripped back track that’s not quite a ballad but proves that the band aren’t one trick ponies. The song is probably the cleanest the band will ever sound, and will ever want to be as anthemic chants ‘I’m never coming home’ ring out for everybody out there stuck alone, giving a glimmer of hope to the fucked over generation. It’s something I don’t doubt will work perfectly in a small, sweaty dive bar somewhere in the US in front of 50 people. Dead Language then goes on to prove that The Flatliners can churn out another Eulogy if they want to as Ashes Away pierces through every other track and gives you a moment to catch your breath.
Casket’s Full goes on to take on an opening riff that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Lawrence Arms record, and easily becomes the catchiest track on the album, and whilst a careful ear will hear Cresswell’s bleak narrative, what really stands out here is the musicianship of Scott Brigham, Jon Darbey and Paul Ramirez as individuals and musicians. Whilst they’re not exactly U2 or someone of similar stadium rock status, Casket’s Full seems to prove one thing only: that The Flatliners are far beyond three chord power punk riffs and instead have something bigger and better to offer, solid, fist-pumping anthems. No cliches, no filler tracks, no heavy production, no bullshit.
Granted, Chris Cresswell and co. aren’t going to change the world and more importantly, they’re not going to change punk rock, but then again they’ve never set out to do that. What you see is very much what you get; which is great, honest music. Their passion is something that can’t be molded, and it shines through in Dead Language. This isn’t just another sub-par record made by a group of guys that pretend they have problems to deal with just so they have some material, Dead Language is instead the perfect way for The Flatliners to say ‘this is who we are, this is what we do and you better listen up.’